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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

April 12, 2019 | 7 Nissan 5779 | Candlelighting at 7:42 p.m.

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Israel made history yesterday with its Beresheet spacecraft. While it did not end the way we had all hoped, history was made nonetheless. As our staff watched it live, we felt the hope, excitement, anxiety, disappointment and pride as though we were in the control room. It was a little like a seder in the sense that we saw ourselves as participants and took on the emotions of it as though we were there.

Leading a seder for the first time can be a little daunting. After all, there’s a reason the leader’s hagaddah often has notes in the margins – it takes preparation. Our young adults program, Axis, in partnership with Temple Sholom Next Generation, hosted a Seder 101 workshop facilitated by Cantor Shira Standford-Asiyo this week. It included shopping lists, online resources, and tips on how to make the seder your own by adding new elements that complement the traditional.

Developing and delivering programs with young adults and for young adults is one of our 2020 Strategic Priorities. So is sending them to Israel on programs that give them life-changing experiences, and then harnessing their enthusiasm upon their return. This week, we are proud to say that not only did we host a Birthright-Israel orientation, but in collaboration with the JCC we held the last session of Medabrim Ivrit, a course for young adults to learn conversational Hebrew. In addition to improving their language skills, they built some new friendships along the way.

We are also very proud to share updates on the programs that are helping Jewish community life flourish across the region – another of the strategic priorities on which we are delivering. Children and parents in the Tri-Cities got ready for Passover at the Model Matzah Bakery hosted by our Connect Me In initiative and Chabad of BC. Forty children baked matzah, built matzah men stuffies, and decorated Eliyahu’s cups. The kids loved putting on their aprons and rolling out their dough.

In Squamish, Connect Me In kicked off the first of its Judaism Through the Arts workshops, which is part of a six-week series for children six to 11 years old. This week's theme was Jewish storytelling and bookmaking. Participants discussed the history of Jewish storytelling, listened to Jewish folktales, and created their own books. Future workshops will include Judaism through cooking, environmentalism, and painting, so if you have Jewish friends or family in the Squamish area, please let them know about this wonderful – and wonderfully creative – series of workshops. 

Among families with young children there is great interest in volunteering, yet not a lot of opportunities to do so. The JCC and PJ Library offered a solution in the Good Deeds Day program they hosted on Sunday. About 20 families made 80 blessings bags that will be distributed to teens in distress by Covenant House. The bags contained necessities, like underwear and deodorant, and little luxuries, like hot chocolate. The event was part of a broader initiative by PJ Library to engage young families in volunteer activities, and participants loved it.

As we get ready to welcome Shabbat, we are delighted to let you know that our Spark a Mitzvah event on Tuesday evening raised $2,500 to support Shabbat dinners for residents of Yaffa Dunbar and other Jewish adults with mental health issues and other challenges. The dinners will be catered by the JCC Bagel Club, a social enterprise that provides training and self-employment for adults facing barriers to traditional employment, such as disabilities.

Spark a Mitzvah events are planned and hosted by the Lions of Judah, a recognition society for women who give $5,000 or more to the Federation Annual Campaign. The events are open to all women in our community, and more than 50 women came together to hear from bestselling author and physician, Dr. Dan Kalla. He spoke about his new book, We All Fall Down, which is centred around the Black Death. He also spoke about how the epidemic led to one of the first genocides of Jews in Europe.

As we sign off at the end of another week, we look ahead to Passover. If you are hosting a seder, please consider taking part in the 2 for Seder initiative in honour of Joyce Fienberg z”l, who was one of 11 people murdered at the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Rachel and I host first-timers every year, and we have signed up. It’s easy. All you do is register online, and then invite two people who have never attended a seder before. If you aren’t hosting, you can invite two people to a community seder, or ask to bring a guest if you’re going to someone’s home. Sharing your seder is an easy and meaningful way to build bridges and promote greater understanding.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

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